Monday, July 28, 2014

Get On Up

Releases August 1st, 2014
2 hr 18 mins
Rated PG-13
Drama, Music/Performing Arts


Director: Tate Taylor


Chadwick Boseman as James Brown
Nelsan Ellis as Bobby Byrd
Brandon Mychal Smith as Little Richard
Jill Scott as Deidre "Dee-Dee" Jenkins
Tika Sumpter as Yvonne Fair
Viola Davis as Susie Brown
Octavia Spencer as Aunt Honey
Keith Robinson as Baby Roy
Lennie James as Joseph "Joe" James
James DuMont as Corporal Dooley
Dan Aykroyd as Ben Bart
Nick Eversman as Mick Jagger
Josh Hopkins as Ralph Bass
Kirk Bovill as Announcer
Ralph Tresvant as Sam Cooke

Aakomon Jones as Bobby Bennett

Review by Stephen M.

Get On Up, the biopic on James Brown, the Godfather of Soul, lacks the electrifying funk that the man the movie is based on possessed.  If you're a fan of his music you may enjoy this trip down memory lane, though it seems to be not a complete story.  Chadwick Boseman, who played Jackie Robinson in "42," fills another pair of big shoes as far as American icons as James Brown.   We get to see a much more different role in the flamboyant James Brown compared to the subdue Robinson for Chadwick.

From his humble beginnings from a dirt poor family, including his famous cop car chase and performing in his later years prior to his death, we see the different stages in his life.  From being given away by his father to a brothel, to joining a gospel group, and then going solo, we see a wikipedia of facts about his life.  What the film really lacks though is substance, including the motivation and drive of James Brown in his decisions in life during pivotal moments.  The film also ignores James Brown's drug abuse problem in the later stages of his life, painting a more rosy picture of the hardest working man in the business.

Chadwick does an admirable job in emulating the Godfather, from his dance moves to his thick accent.  With regards to the aging of his character, I don't see much difference in his appearance despite his character going into his 60's.  Dan Aykroyd as Ben, James's manager and friend and Nelsan Ellis as Bobby Byrd, James's best friend during his career, both also are memorable in their roles.  Brandon Mychal Smith is entertaining as Little Richard, whom I did not know had a role in James's breakout.  For me, the female characters in the film are completely forgettable aside from James's mom, Susie played by Viola Davis.  The film would have you believe that James had no important woman in his life, at least in regards to his music career.

Overall, I would recommend waiting for this one to come out on Netflix or catching a matinee of the film.  Aside from being able to sing along with the film with such familiar hits like "Please, Please, Please", "Papa's Got a Brand New Bag", and even "Say it Loud - I'm Black and I'm Proud," there's little else to move you to see the film.  It fails to capture the larger than life legacy that was James Brown.  Chadwick's character Brown talks about how he influenced all genres of music, but fails to demonstrates this point, as the film loses focus often as Brown did later in life.


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